Zim climate policy inspires hope

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NETSAYI Chigwanda (56) of ward 19 in Nyanga district, Manicaland province, was at the recent launch of the Zimbabwe Climate Policy, during which her hopes and those of her fellow villagers living on the foot-hills of the Nyangani Mountain range, were raised.

BY TONDERAYI MATONHO

The mountain range stretches north-east for 80km from Juliasdale through Nyanga town, forming part of the Great Rift Valley. It is home to naturally-perennial streams of water suitable for irrigation and horticulture activities if harnessed through water harvesting, according to experts.

“Our region lies on the leeward side of the mountain range, making it a drought-plagued area, year in, year out. But we have abundant natural water flowing on the mountain range through streams and rivulets that we can harvest through small dams and reservoirs and carry out horticulture activities,” said Chigwanda.

Experts have said the long-awaited policy launch comes to the fore against the backdrop of overdue life–long water, environment and climate resilience activities in fragile rural and urban communities, long exposed to the vagaries of climate change.

In the wake of this policy launch, some experts have noted that history has shown that no matter how high-sounding the blueprints and policy documents are, if the projects do not appeal to, and prioritise, the local community’s needs, they are bound to fail.

“Policy makers should look for investors and donors in project areas that local communities have identified in terms of sustainable water resources management and infrastructure development”, said Joseph Tasosa, executive director of the Zimbabwe National Environment Trust which advocates for proper environmental governance.
“The government should not wait to be dictated upon by foreign administrations, but rather they should work closely with local communities to identifying local development gaps.”

BirdLife Zimbabwe programme manager, Toga Fakarayi, said it was important to adhere to the spirit of the policy.

“It also highlights the need to promote domestic resource mobilisation and establish a National Climate Fund. Accreditation of national institutions for direct access to climate finance mechanisms is emphasised within the policy and this should be adhered to,” he said.

Infrastructure development continues to top the government’s priority list as the country gears itself to cope with phenomena such as the rapid growth of urban populations, the effects of climate change and ever-growing demands of a modernised society.

“The impacts of climate change are severe, resulting in the current drainage systems being unable to cope with water volumes leading to flooding, hail storms that destroy houses and winds that blow off roofs, climatic conditions unheard of until fairly recently,” said environmental scientist, Oliver Mutasa.

However, Climate Change Department director in the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate, Washington Zhakata, said although the negative implications of climate change were a threat to the health of citizens, the policy launch will strive to meet its values and tenets.

“Cities and rural communities face significant impacts from climate change, both now and in the future. In addition, climate impacts range from an increase in extreme weather events and patterns such as droughts, floods to hot temperatures and public health concerns as we have been experiencing in the past few years. The launch of this policy is thus very much welcome in addressing these challenges,” he said.

A senior manager with the Forestry Commission, Chemist Gumbie, said the policy recognised the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, particularly Sustainable Development Goal 13, which calls for the need for countries to “take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts on communities and surrounding forests”.

He noted that the policy is in line with other government policies and programmes aimed at promoting climate resilience, food security and sustainable development.

“The National Climate Policy sets to accelerate mitigation and adaptation measures by developing low carbon development pathways in the Industrial, Water, Energy, Waste, Agriculture, Land use, Land use change and Forestry sectors among others,” Gumbie said.

The Climate Change Working Group-Zimbabwe (CCWG-Z) coordinator, Shepherd Zvigadza, commended the government for taking steps meant to address climate change through establishing the Climate Change Management Department in 2013, development of the National Climate Change Response Strategy in 2014 and the implementation of climate change mitigation and adaptation projects across the country.

The Climate Policy was launched under the theme, ‘Unlocking Water Resources Potential for Economic Growth’ during a recent climate conference.

Zimbabwe ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992, committed to deal with climate change based on the principles of the convention, including protecting the climate system for the benefit of present and future generations on the basis of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities in light of national circumstances.